Partnership with Florida Department of Health enabling Sarasota County Fire Department crews to leave free life-saving medication after responding to opioid overdose calls

Fire Department handled 844 overdoses in 2022

Thanks to joining the Florida Department of Health’s Helping Emergency Responders Obtain Support (HEROS) Program, members of the Sarasota County Fire Department can leave behind naloxone, a life-saving medication, when they responds to a patient experiencing an opioid overdose, the department announced this week.

A HEROS program grant is enabling the Fire Department to provide naloxone for free, a news release points out. In 2022, the release adds, the Fire Department “responded to 844 drug overdoses and administered 1,087 doses of naloxone.”

“This is another opportunity to help save lives and potentially prevent a fatal overdose in our community,” Dr. Marshall Frank, the department’s medical director, said in the release. “Our firefighter/EMTs and firefighter/paramedics are doing everything they can when they arrive on the scene, and now we’re able to provide the community tools to help those experiencing an overdose until EMS arrives.”

The release explains, “Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, restoring breathing within two to three minutes in a person whose breathing has slowed, or even stopped. Opioid abuse is seen with medications such as heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine.”

“In 2020,” the state Health Department notes, “Florida’s emergency responders treated nearly 23,124 drug overdoses.” Yet, the website continues, “in 2020, 34,482 people in Florida died from an opioid drug overdose.”

Since the inception of the HEROS program in 2018, the website adds, more than 500,000 doses of naloxone have been provided to 385 emergency response agencies in Florida.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes on his website, “When naloxone was first approved to reverse opioid overdoses, its brand name was ‘Narcan.’ There are now other formulations and brand names for naloxone, but many people continue to call all of these products ‘Narcan.’ However, the proper generic name is ‘naloxone.’ ”

Among the signs of an opioid overdose, the Institute says, are loss of consciousness, pupils becoming very small, slow or shallow breathing, vomiting, an inability to speak, a faint heartbeat, limp arms and legs, pale skin, and purple lips and fingernails.

Sarasota County Fire Department crews who respond to a suspected opioid-related overdose call will be able to leave intranasal naloxone with “a responsible party along with instructions on how and when to use it,” the news release adds. “The intranasal route is designed for ease of use as it is needle-free, requires no assembly, and does not require specialized training to administer,” the release explains.

The state Health Department does emphasize, “[N]aloxone is a temporary treatment and its effects do not last long. Therefore, it is critical to obtain medical intervention as soon as possible after administering/receiving naloxone.”

The county news release also points out that a community resource pamphlet outlining a list of local and national counseling and mental health resources will be left with the naloxone.

As for the HEROS program: The state Health Department website says that any Florida agency that employs licensed emergency responders may apply to the program online. “Licensed emergency responders include law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians or paramedics, correctional officers and correctional probation officers as defined in Florida Statutes.”

For more information on the HEROS program, visit this website.

More information on Sarasota County Fire Department is also available at or by calling 311.